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On a map of Southeast Asia, the island of Borneo  the third largest in the world  stands out as an imposing mass in the middle of the Indo-Malaysian archipelago


Asia’s last great rainforest

Still swathed in extensive tropical rainforests and inhabited by endangered animals such as orangutans, elephants and rhinos, the island continues to reveal new biodiversity wonders as more species are constantly discovered.

A shared asset between Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia

Borneo is divided between Indonesia, Brunei-Darussalam and Malaysia. Their shared responsibility to manage the island’s central highland rainforests - the Heart of Borneo – has led to an ambitious transboundary conservation initiative.

A mosaic of landscapes

Although Borneo conjures images of dense tropical rainforests, the landscape offers a mosaic of varied habitats: mangroves, peat swamp and swamp forests, ironwood, heath and montane forests. These areas form part of a complex ecosystem that has evolved over thousands of years.

Massive rivers cut across the landscape, weaving their way across Borneo’s central range. These are the island’s lifelines, offering transport and communication but providing the freshwater needs of river communities.

The human heart of Borneo

Mirroring the island’s natural diversity and the tides of change that have swept through over the centuries, Borneo’s people are a mosaic of culturally distinct indigenous groups scattered across the landscape.

Some, like the Penan, are nomadic hunter-gatherers while the majority, the Dayak, are settled and cultivate rice through shifting techniques (dry swiddens) and paddies (wet rice cultivation).

Beyond the intrinsic values of the Heart of Borneo, there are many other reasons to protect this area


Around half of the Heart of Borneo and its surrounding areas are covered by logging concessions. Forests inside these concessions can be logged according to national sustainability certification standards. These concessions bring employment opportunities and economic revenue for local and state governments.

Water catchment

Well-managed natural forests provide high-quality drinking water to urban and rural populations. With 14 of Borneo’s 20 major rivers beginning their journey from the Heart of Borneo, the area is the source for the island’s considerable water resources.


Borneo’s natural forests are not usually prone to fires if left undisturbed. As forests are opened up by humans, they dry out and become susceptible to fires, which can cause dangerous atmospheric haze. Properly managed, the Heart of Borneo’s forests can provide an effective break to the worst effects of fires.

Oil palm plantations

Malaysia and Indonesia account for over 90 per cent of the world's total oil palm plantation area.

As palm oil is the cheapest vegetable oil, the demand for this commodity as a source of food and energy is expected to rise rapidly. The demand for food alone is expected to double in the next decade, and the Indonesian government has responded by setting a target to increase oil palm production from 20 million tonnes in 2009 to 40 million tonnes in 2020.
WWF personnel fit radio collars to elephants as part of the research effort to understand the ... 
© WWF / A. Christy WILLIAMS
WWF personnel fit radio collars to elephants as part of the research effort to understand the Borneo pigmy elephant and conserve its future
© WWF / A. Christy WILLIAMS

In their own words...

Dato' Seri Abdullah Bin Haji Ahmad Badawi

Malaysia Prime Minister
"The Heart of Borneo covers a big tract in Borneo and is very important. It is an ASEAN project which is good for research and activities that lead towards forest protection."

Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

President of Indonesia
"We have become ever more aware, and humbled, by the fact that our tropical rainforests have a strategic, global function...they produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide not just for Indonesians but for the human race."

Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah

Sultan of Brunei Darussalam
"Being part of Borneo and in our effort to retain ecological connectivity and to conserve a large tract of forest resources, Brunei Darussalam has become a strong partner in the Heart of Borneo (HoB) Initiative. It is one of the largest tropical rainforest conservation initiatives in the region and we have committed 58% of our land under Hob Management."

Sir David Attenborough

Natural history TV presenter
"Life on Earth is not evenly spread around our planet. Borneo - the world's third largest island - is one of its richest treasure-houses, full of an immense variety of wild animals and plants, all living in a magnificent tropical forest." Read more

HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

Patron of WWF
"It has become only too apparent that the world's tropical rainforests are critically endangered." Read more

Sir Peter Crane

Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, London
"Borneo – the very word evokes images of vast tracts of tropical forest teeming with a spectacular variety of animal and plant life." Read more

Administrative map of Borneo
© Map sourced from © File is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike license versions 2.5, 2.0, and 1.0.